Seaver at the 2011 Hall of Fame induction parade
November 17, 1944 |
|April 13, 1967, for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 19, 1986, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Earned run average||2.86|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||98.8% (first ballot)|
George Thomas Seaver (born November 17, 1944), nicknamed Tom Terrific and The Franchise, is a retired Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher. He pitched from 1967 to 1986 for four different teams, but is noted primarily for his time with the New York Mets and especially for his important role in the team's 1969 World Championship. During a 20-year career, Seaver compiled 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts and a 2.86 earned run average. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the highest percentage of votes ever recorded at the time (98.84%; subsequently surpassed in 2016 by Ken Griffey Jr. with 99.32%), and is one of two players (with Mike Piazza) wearing a New York Mets hat on his plaque at Cooperstown. As of 2016, Seaver, Mike Piazza and Gil Hodges (who played for the expansion Mets in 1962–63) are the only Mets players to have their jersey numbers retired by the team (Hodges' number was retired as a manager even though he also played for the Mets).
He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1967, and he received three NL Cy Young Awards as the league's best pitcher. Seaver is the Mets' all-time leader in wins, and he is considered by many baseball experts to be one of the best starting pitchers in the history of baseball.
Seaver was born in Fresno, California, to Betty Lee (Cline) and Charles Henry Seaver. Pitching for Fresno High School, Seaver compensated for his lack of size and strength by developing great control on the mound. Despite being an All-City basketball player, he hoped to play baseball in college.
He joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves on June 28, 1962. He served with AIRFMFPAC 29 Palms, California through July 1963. After six months of active duty in the Reserves, Seaver enrolled at Fresno City College.
In anticipation of the following season, he was recruited to pitch for the University of Southern California by legendary Trojan coach Rod Dedeaux. Unsure as to whether Seaver was worthy of a scholarship, he was sent to pitch for the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1964. After a stellar season – in which he pitched and won a game in the national tournament with a grand slam – he was awarded a scholarship to USC. As a sophomore, Seaver posted a 10–2 record, and he was drafted in the tenth round of the 1965 Major League Baseball draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. When Seaver asked for $70,000, however, the Dodgers passed.
In 1966, he signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves, who had drafted him in the first round of the secondary June draft (20th overall). However, the contract was voided by Baseball Commissioner William Eckert because his college team had played two exhibition games that year (although Seaver himself hadn't played). Seaver intended, then, to finish the college season, but because he had signed a pro contract, the NCAA ruled him ineligible. After Seaver's father complained to Eckert about the unfairness of the situation, and threatened with a lawsuit, Eckert ruled that other teams could match the Braves' offer. The Mets were subsequently awarded his signing rights in a lottery drawing among the three teams (the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians being the two others) that were willing to match the Braves' terms.
Seaver spent one season with the Jacksonville Suns of the International League, then joined the New York Mets in 1967. He won 16 games for the last-place Mets, with 18 complete games, 170 strikeouts, and a 2.76 ERA, all Mets records to that point, and was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He was also named to the 1967 All-Star Game, and got the save by pitching a scoreless 15th inning. In 1968, he won 16 games again, and recorded over 200 strikeouts for the first of nine consecutive seasons, but the Mets moved up only one spot in the standings, to ninth.
In 1969, Seaver and the Mets won their first World Series championship. Seaver won a league-high 25 games and his first National League Cy Young Award. He also finished runner-up to Willie McCovey for the League's Most Valuable Player Award.
In front of a crowd of over 59,000 at New York's Shea Stadium on July 9, Seaver threw 8 1⁄3 perfect innings against the division-leading Chicago Cubs. Rookie backup outfielder Jimmy Qualls broke up Seaver's bid for a perfect game when he lined a clean single to left field.
In the first-ever NLCS game, Seaver outlasted Atlanta's Phil Niekro for a sloppy 9-5 victory. Seaver was also the starter for the Mets' first World Series game, but lost a 4-1 decision to the Baltimore Orioles' Mike Cuellar. Seaver then pitched a 10-inning complete game for a 2-1 win in Game Four to put the Mets on the cusp of their first championship.
On April 22, 1970, Seaver set a major league record by striking out the final 10 batters of the game in a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres at Shea Stadium. Al Ferrara, who had homered in the second inning for the Padres' run, was the final strikeout victim of the game. In addition to his 10 consecutive strikeouts, Seaver tied Steve Carlton's major league record, at the time, with 19 strikeouts in a nine-inning game,. The Mets also won the game in which Carlton struck out 19, with Carlton victimized by Ron Swoboda's pair of 2-run homers in a 4–3 Mets victory in St. Louis on September 15, 1969. (The record was later eclipsed by 20-strikeout games by Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson, Max Scherzer, and twice by Roger Clemens.) By mid-August, Seaver's record stood at 17-6 and he seemed well on his way to a second consecutive 20-victory season. But he only won one of his last ten starts, including four on short rest, to finish 18-12. Nonetheless, Seaver led the National League in both ERA and strikeouts.
The 1971 season was arguably Seaver's finest year, when he led the league in ERA (1.76) and strikeouts (289 in 286 innings) while going 20–10. However, he finished second in the Cy Young balloting to Ferguson Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs, due to Jenkins' league-leading 24 wins, 325 innings pitched, and exceptional control numbers. Seaver himself has said that 1971 was his best season.
Seaver had four more twenty-win seasons (20 in 1971, 21 in 1972, 22 in 1975, and 21 in 1977) (7 wins for the Mets, then 14 more after being traded to the Reds). He won two more Cy Young Awards (1973 and 1975, both with the Mets).
During his tenure with the Mets, Seaver made 108 starts in which he pitched 9 or more innings and allowed 1 run or less. His record in those starts is 93-3 with 12 no-decisions. In seven of the 12 no-decisions, he pitched 10 or more innings. In the 12 no-decisions, he pitched a total of 117 innings, allowing 56 hits and 5 earned runs, compiling a 0.38 ERA.
Between 1970 and 1976, Seaver led the National League in strikeouts five of the seven seasons, finishing second in 1972 and third in 1974. Seaver also won three ERA titles as a Met. Two famous quotes about Seaver are attributed to Reggie Jackson: "Blind men come to the park just to hear him pitch." The second was that, while pitching for the Mets during the 1973 World series, 6th game, with the Mets up 3 games to 2, and so poised to win their second Championship, with Mr. Seaver scheduled to start. He did, but did not have his "arm" that day, his arm strength, that is, and the opposing team knew it. Seaver would go on to start and lose the 6th game... Mr. Jackson is reported to have said "Seaver pitched with his heart that day." Seaver was perhaps the foremost latter-day exponent of "drop and drive" overhand delivery, but his powerful legs protected his arm, and ensured his longevity. Seaver was frequently compared to fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson.
By 1977, free agency had begun and contract negotiations between Mets ownership and Seaver were not going well. Seaver wanted to renegotiate his contract to bring his salary in line with what other top pitchers were making, but chairman of the board M. Donald Grant, who by this time had been given carte blanche by Met management to do what he wished, refused to budge. Longtime New York Daily News columnist Dick Young regularly wrote negative columns about Seaver's "greedy" demands. As for Seaver, he attempted to resolve the impasse by going to then-team owner Lorinda de Roulet, who along with then-GM Joe McDonald, had negotiated in principle a three-year contract extension by mid-June. But before the contract could be signed, Young wrote an unattributed story in the Daily News claiming that Seaver was being goaded by his wife to ask for more money because she was jealous of the fact that Nolan Ryan was making more money with the California Angels. Upon being informed of the story, Seaver informed de Roulet that he immediately wanted out, and asked McDonald to immediately trade him, feeling that he could not co-exist with M. Donald Grant.
In one of two trades that New York's sports reporters dubbed "the Midnight Massacre" (the other involved struggling outfielder Dave Kingman), Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977 (the trading deadline for that year) for pitcher Pat Zachry, minor league outfielder Steve Henderson, infielder Doug Flynn, and minor league outfielder Dan Norman. Seaver would go 14-3 with Cincinnati and win 21 games that season, including an emotional 5-1 win over the Mets in his return to Shea Stadium. Seaver struck out 11 in the return, and also hit a double. Seaver, who was immensely popular in New York, also received a lengthy ovation at the 1977 All-Star Game, which was held in New York's Yankee Stadium. His departure from New York sparked sustained negative fan reaction, as the Mets became the league's worst team, finishing in last place the next 3 seasons. Combined with the Yankees' resurgence in the market, attendance dipped in 1978, and plunged in 1979 to 9,740 per game. M. Donald Grant was fired after the 1978 season, and Joe McDonald was fired after the 1979 season following a sale of the team to publishing magnate Nelson Doubleday, Jr.. In a sardonic nod to the general manager, Shea Stadium acquired the nickname "Grant's Tomb".
After having thrown five one-hitters for the Mets, including two games in which no-hit bids were broken up in the ninth inning, Seaver recorded a 4-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 16, 1978 at Riverfront Stadium. It was the only no-hitter of his professional career.
Seaver was 75-46 in Cincinnati. He led the Cincinnati pitching staff in 1979, when the Reds won the Western Division, and again in the strike-shortened 1981 season, when the Reds had the best record in the major leagues. In the latter season, Seaver, with his sterling 14-2 performance, was a close runner-up to Fernando Valenzuela for the 1981 Cy Young Award. (Seaver had finished third and fourth in two other previous years.) In 1981, during one of his 2 losses, Seaver recorded his 3,000th strikeout. After recording his 3000th, he took himself out of the game, walking off the mound to a standing ovation. He suffered through an injury-ridden 1982 campaign, finishing 5-13.
On December 16, 1982, Seaver was traded back to the Mets, for Charlie Puleo, Lloyd McClendon, and Jason Felice. On April 5, 1983, he tied Walter Johnson's major league record of 14 Opening Day starts, shutting out the Philadelphia Phillies for six innings in a 2-0 Mets win. (He made two more such starts with the Chicago White Sox in 1985 and 1986 for a record total of 16 opening day assignments.) Despite a 9-14 record that season, Seaver had high expectations going into 1984 and intended to finish his career where he started it.
Seaver and the Mets were stunned on January 20, 1984 when he was claimed in a free-agent compensation draft by the Chicago White Sox. The team (especially GM Frank Cashen) had incorrectly assumed that no one would pursue a high-salaried, 39-year-old starting pitcher, and left him off the protected list. Faced with either reporting to the White Sox or retiring, Seaver chose the former. The result for the Mets was an opening in the starting rotation that allowed Dwight Gooden to be part of the team.
Seaver pitched two and a half seasons in Chicago and recorded his last shutout on July 19, 1985 against the visiting Indians. In an anomaly, Seaver won two games on May 9, 1984; he pitched the 25th and final inning of a game suspended the day before, picking up the win in relief against the Milwaukee Brewers, before starting and winning the day's regularly scheduled game, also facing the Brewers.
After Seaver's 298th win, a reporter had pointed out to White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk that following his upcoming start in Boston, Seaver's next scheduled start would be in New York, and that the possibility existed that he might achieve the mark there. Fisk emphatically stated that Seaver would win in Boston, and then would win his 300th.
On August 4, 1985, Seaver recorded his 300th victory at Yankee Stadium against the Yankees, throwing a complete game 4-1 victory. Don Baylor was the tying run at the plate; he hit a fly ball to left field for the final out of the game. Coincidentally, it was Phil Rizzuto Day – Seaver would later become Rizzuto's broadcast partner for Yankee games. Lindsey Nelson, a Mets radio and TV announcer during Seaver's Mets days, called the final out for Yankees TV flagship WPIX.
Late in 1985, his next-to-last season, Seaver almost returned to the Mets, as general manager Frank Cashen was poised to make a late-season trade. However, manager Davey Johnson vetoed the idea, and Seaver instead ended his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1986 after being traded for Steve Lyons in mid-season. Seaver's 311th and last win came on August 18, 1986 against the Minnesota Twins. At the time of his retirement, Seaver was third on the all-time strikeout list (3,640), trailing only Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. No major league pitcher has ever matched his feat of striking out ten consecutive batters. His career average of 6.85 strikeouts per nine innings is fourth only to Steve Carlton (7.1), Nolan Ryan (9.55), and Randy Johnson (10.6) of any Hall of Famer with at least 300 wins. Seaver's lifetime ERA of 2.86 was third among starting pitchers in the live-ball era, behind only Whitey Ford (2.73) and Sandy Koufax (2.76). (Jim Palmer and Andy Messersmith both have a career earned run average of 2.86 as well.) Seaver also holds the record for consecutive 200-strike-out seasons with nine (1968–1976). Seaver's 61 career shutouts are second only to Warren Spahn (63) in the live-ball era. His career win-loss record percentage of .603 is one of the highest of any Hall of Fame pitcher with 300 wins in the live-ball era, and his record of 7.84 hits per nine innings is second only to Nolan Ryan (6.56) for all Hall of Fame pitchers with at least three hundred wins, and first among all HOF pitchers in any era with 300 wins, 3000 strikeouts, and a winning percentage of .600 or better. A knee injury prevented him from appearing against the Mets in the 1986 World Series between the Mets and Red Sox, but Seaver received among the loudest ovations during player introductions prior to Game 1. Roger Clemens attributes the time he shared with Seaver as 1986 Red Sox teammates as instrumental in helping him make the transition from thrower to pitcher. The Red Sox did not offer Seaver a contract to his liking for the 1987 season. His 1986 salary was $1 million; the Red Sox offered $500,000, which Seaver declined. When no new contract agreement was reached, Seaver was granted free agency on November 12, 1986.
In 1987, the Mets starting rotation was decimated by injury and they sought help from Seaver. Though no actual contract was signed, Seaver joined the club on June 6, and was hit hard in an exhibition game against the Triple-A Tidewater Tides on June 11. After similar poor outings on the 16th & 20th, he announced his retirement, saying, "I've used up all the competitive pitches in my arm!" The Mets retired his uniform number 41 in 1988 in a special Tom Seaver Day ceremony. As of 2017, Seaver and Mike Piazza remain the only Met players to have their uniform numbers retired. Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges had their numbers retired as Met managers, and Jackie Robinson had his number retired by all teams. Their numbers—14 (Hodges), 31 (Piazza), 37 (Stengel), 41 (Seaver), and 42 (Jackie Robinson)—were posted in large numerals on the outfield fence at Shea Stadium, and are posted on the left field corner overhang at Citi Field. He is one of only two pitchers (the other being Walter Johnson) to have 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, and an under 3.00 ERA.
|Tom Seaver's number 41 was retired by the New York Mets in 1988.|
Seaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 7, 1992. At the time he received the highest percentage of votes with 98.84% (on 425 of 430). Ken Griffey Jr. had 437 of 440, which got him a 99.3%, which superseded both Seaver's vote total and percentage. It leaves both men higher than the likes of Nolan Ryan's 98.79% (491 of 497), and Ty Cobb's 98.23% (222 of 226), among all others. Three of the five ballots that had omitted Seaver were blank, cast by writers protesting the Hall's decision to make Pete Rose ineligible for consideration. One ballot was sent by a writer who was recovering from open-heart surgery and failed to notice Seaver's name. The fifth "no" vote was cast by a writer who said he never voted for any player in their first year of eligibility. Seaver is one of two players enshrined in the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on his plaque, along with Mike Piazza. He was also inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1988, the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 1999, Seaver ranked 32nd on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the only player to have spent a majority of his career with the Mets to make the list. That year, he was also a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Baseball purists often compare him to Christy Mathewson for his combination of raw power, pinpoint control, intelligence, and intense scrutiny of his performance. Seaver was the foremost latter-day exponent of "drop and drive" overhand delivery that utilitized his powerful legs, took strain off of his arm, and helped ensure his longevity. He always credited the training he received in the Mets organization, citing the long careers of teammates Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw as further proof. Seaver could also help himself at the plate. A decent hitter and proficient bunter, Seaver hit 12 home runs during his career, along with a relatively solid lifetime average for a pitcher of .154.
Hank Aaron stated that Seaver was the toughest pitcher he ever faced. Seaver approached Aaron before his first All-Star Game in 1967 and asked Aaron for his autograph. Seaver felt the need to introduce himself to Aaron, as he was certain "Hammerin' Hank" would not know who he was. Aaron replied to Seaver, "Kid, I know who you are, and before your career is over, I guarantee you everyone in this stadium will, too."
On September 28, 2006, Seaver was chosen as the "Hometown Hero" for the Mets franchise by ESPN. Seaver made a return to Shea Stadium during the "Shea Goodbye" closing ceremony on September 28, 2008, where he threw out the final pitch in the history of the stadium to Mike Piazza. He and Piazza then opened the Mets' new home, Citi Field with the ceremonial first pitch on April 13, 2009.
The 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was dedicated to Seaver. He concluded the introduction of the starting lineup ceremonies by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Mets player David Wright participated.
Since his retirement as a player, Seaver has sometimes been a television color commentator, working variously for the Mets, the New York Yankees, and with Vin Scully in 1989 for NBC. Seaver replaced Joe Garagiola as NBC's lead baseball color commentator, which led to him calling the 1989 All-Star Game and National League Championship Series. He worked as an analyst for Yankees' telecasts on WPIX from 1989 to 1993 and for Mets telecasts on WPIX from 1999 to 2005, making him one of three sportscasters to be regular announcers for both teams; the others are Fran Healy and Tim McCarver. He has also worked as a part-time scout, and as a spring training pitching coach. Seaver's TV experience dates back to his playing career, when he was invited to serve as a World Series analyst for ABC in 1977 and for NBC in 1978, 1980, and 1982. Also while an active player, Seaver called the 1981 National League Division Series between Montreal and Philadelphia and that years's National League Championship Series alongside Dick Enberg for NBC.
Seaver married the former Nancy Lynn McIntyre on June 9, 1966. They are parents of two daughters, Sarah and Annie. They live in Calistoga, California, where he started his own 3.5-acre (14,000 m2) vineyard, Seaver Family Vineyards, on his 116-acre (0.47 km2) estate in 2002. His first vintage was produced in 2005. He presented his two cabernets, "Nancy's Fancy" and "GTS", in an April 2010 wine-tasting event in SoHo to positive reviews.
His media nickname referred to the cartoon character Tom Terrific.
In 1991, Seaver was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which caused Bell's palsy. After lying dormant in his system the disease reoccurred in 2012. Seaver suffered from loss of memory not even remembering long term acquaintances, "sleep disorder, nausea, and a general overall feeling of chemical imbalance". In January 2013 Seaver was diagnosed with Stage 3 of the disease. As of July 2013, after a treatment regimen of mostly vitamins, Seaver was feeling much better. According to former teammate Bud Harrelson, Seaver has "some short term memory loss but is otherwise doing well."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tom Seaver.|
June 16, 1978
|Lead color commentator, Major League Baseball on NBC
Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker (in 1994)
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